Letters from artists at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum – Interview with Anne-Marie Springer – Passéisme

For the first time in Spain, the famous Madrid Museum presents a selection of letters by artists from the Anne-Marie Springer collection, presented in dialogue with works from the museum.

This presentation gives rise to an original exhibition that allows visitors to take an intimate look at the personal and artistic lives of these artists.

In the privacy of artists

When the visitor walks through the galleries of a museum, he immediately comes in contact with the artist’s public personality, with the feelings and ideas that he has tried to express with his brush or chisel. On the other hand, the opportunities to dive into this artist’s intimate life are rare, to discover his passions and follow the path of his thoughts.

Such an experience is now possible at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. An experience where visitors are invited to take on a real journey into the lives of key people and important people in art history through their correspondence.

34 letters and postcards have been selected by Clara Marcellán – curator of the exhibition and curator of modern painting at the Thyssen Museum – to be exhibited side by side with certain masterpieces from the museum. Among these moving missives – some are abundantly illustrated – we find the greatest names in art history: Eugène Delacroix, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Fernand Léger, Camille Pissarro, Juan Pig, Egon Schiele, Frida Kahlo and Lucien Freud.

Letter from Henri Matisse to his wife Amélie. © Anne-Marie Springer collection.

A few excerpts make it easy to realize the importance of these documents, where the tone develops between burning statements, uncertainty, confessions and artistic exaltations:

[…] As always, when I leave you, I take your world and your life with me, and I can not get over it. Do not be sad – paint and live – I adore you with my whole life. […]
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

[…] You ask me where is the happiness in this world. After many experiences, I have convinced myself that he is only in complacency. The passions can not give this satisfaction; we always want the impossible, what we get does not satisfy us. I suppose people who have solid virtue must possess a great deal of the satisfaction which I make to the condition of happiness. For my part, I am not virtuous enough to please myself on the side I compensate for it with the real satisfaction that the work provides. It provides true well-being and increases indifference to pleasures which are only in the name and which the people of the world are obliged to settle for. […]
Eugène Delacroix to Baroness Joséphine de Forget

[…] When I got up at six o’clock, I thought I was going to have a very bad day. As always on Sundays, not a shadow of fog, even it was terribly clear; then the sun was dazzling up [à] can not[voir] to look at it. The Thames was just gold. God, it was beautiful, so I started working feverishly after the sun and its sparkling on the water. During this, the kitchens light up. Thanks to the fumes came the fog, then clouds […]
Claude Monet to his wife, Alice Hoschedé

These letters, especially well-chosen ones, reveal so many facets of artists who do not hesitate to write down their feelings, their fears, and their successes. They similarly reveal crucial details about their works and their working methods.

A unique collection

It was in 1994 that Anne-Marie Springer began collecting autograph letters around a very specific theme: love. The collection, which now includes more than 2,000 documents, recounts the love stories of the greatest historical, literary, artistic and musical personalities. Over the years, it has been able to develop its collection by acquiring numerous letters from artists that highlight their mindset and allow for a more intimate understanding of their art.

On the occasion of this fascinating exhibition, we asked Anne-Marie Springer five questions about this love of letters, which led her with a passion for love letters.


Passéism: The origin of your passion is found in a happy event: the birth of your daughter Zoé.

Now adult, what relationship does she have to this collection, and above all, has her mother’s passion been passed on to her daughter?

My daughter is very interested in the collection, especially for everything modern. However, it is difficult to impose a passion and I will in no way force him to continue on my path. I leave it entirely up to her to make the decisions she chooses in the future.

Let’s say that she was very involuntarily the initiator of this collection, but that I was subsequently caught by the game and did not involve her, except in rare exceptions, in my choices.

Passéism: It all started with a love letter addressed to Victor Hugo by Juliette Drouet, his companion for almost fifty years.

Can you tell us about the latest piece added to your collection?

It is a magnificent letter from Yves Saint-Laurent written to his mother during a stay in his villa in Marrakech; it is illustrated with several drawings. He tells her about his daily life and shows her a very touching sonly love.

Passéism: From 30 May to 25 September, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum will honor part of your collection by presenting a selection of artist letters.

What was the document selection process?

I suggested to the Thyssen Museum a series of letters from painters, and the curator, Clara Marcellán, chose about thirty of them; those who come closest to the corresponding paintings in their extraordinary collection, and which highlight the state of mind, difficulties, and joys of their authors at the time they made them.

It seems that this is the first time that such an exhibition, with both paintings and the painters’ writings, has been organized in Spain and perhaps even in Europe. It’s a huge honor for my collection.

Letter from Egon Schiele to his wife Edith. © Anne-Marie Springer collection.

Passéisme: If you had to choose a letter that you particularly appreciate in this exhibition, what would it be?

It is undoubtedly a letter from Van Gogh to Émile Bernard, in which he addresses both his sufferings but also his joy at decorating his studio with half a dozen paintings of sunflower.

Passéism: You often highlight this desire to share your discoveries through your Instagram account, conferences and beautiful books that have been published.

Do you have other projects to showcase your collection?

Currently, there are no projects other than the release of a book by Gallimard; there one will find the transcription of a small notebook by Victor Hugo addressed to Juliette Drouet as well as scholarly comments from specialists.

In general, one project leads to another …


JM Sultan

JM Sultan

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